Cadwalader Park Master Plan

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Executive Summary

In the past decade, renewed attention has been focused on the nation’s spectacular legacy of parks designed over a century ago by Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s bestknown landscape architect. The restoration of New York’s Central Park and exciting initiatives in cities such as Atlanta, Louisville, and Rochester have generated nationwide interest in rebuilding our heritage through these magnificent outdoor spaces.

Trenton is fortunate to possess one of these Olmsted Parks. Cadwalader Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Senior in 1891, still preserves many of the landscape and spatial qualities present in the original plan. It is beloved by many of the city’s residents, who recall pony rides, picnics, concerts and the balloon man, a fixture on many pleasant weekend afternoons. Common to many urban parks, Cadwalader has suffered through several decades of decline owing to funding cutbacks and changes in use. Even so, the park remains a destination for many citizens, who appreciate the numerous groves of trees, outdoor play spaces, and well-kept recreational amenities. Recently, Cadwalader Park was recognized as one of two parks in the State of New Jersey designated for the “100 Parks, 100 Years” Centennial Anniversary program of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The City of Trenton, in collaboration with an Advisory Committee of local residents and the master planning team, has developed a longterm plan for renewing Cadwalader Park. The plan proposes an array of exciting activities and new facilities to draw people back into the park, as well as restoration measures for the existing facilities and plantings. Implementation of the new programs and restoration measures will require a significant commitment from the City for funding, upgraded security and increased maintenance. Improvements in park operations must progress at the same time that new projects and programs are implemented so that deterioration does not immediately reoccur.

The recognition that Trenton’s citizens are instrumental in ensuring the success and survival of Cadwalader Park is as vital to the park’s renewal as new programs and improved operations. Successful park initiatives across the nation in the past two decades have relied heavily on purposeful and active citizen organizations, which work in partnership with municipalities to transform public spaces and the way they are used. Sustained and dedicated involvement from a wide range of individuals and groups will be needed to rebuild Cadwalader Park and restore this vital part of the city.


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1) Preserve and interpret the history of Cadwalader Park as an Olmsted Park, retaining features unique to its historical evolution as a public space.

2) Restore the physical and ecological infrastructure of the park, including its valuable buildings, trees, streams, woodlands and ponds.

3) Implement exciting new programs that provide a range of activities for people of all ages and interests.

4) Upgrade park operations, including security, park management, and landscape maintenance.

5) Begin a partnership with Trenton’s communities and its private sector and with the State of New Jersey to share initiative and responsibility for long-term management and funding of the park.

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Park Management

Appoint a Park Administrator who would be responsible for developing, implementing, and coordinating park maintenance, operations, special events, and programs. Establish a park operating budget and train a dedicated park workforce that would be responsible for all aspects of park maintenance.


Develop a coordinated park security plan to include police, park maintenance staff, and park rangers. Provide for increased police presence on bicycles or scooters. Develop the ranger program to include additional rangers and enhanced training in conflict resolution and public education.

Planned Events and Group Programs

Begin a regular program of planned events, such as a summer concert or performing arts series, with appeal to wide ranges of ages, cultures, and interests. Offer a variety of programs, both entertaining and informative, that will attract families, young urban residents, and older citizens.

Special Event Celebrations

Utilize special event celebrations within the park as a way to build historical continuity and strengthen community ties. Where possible, create events that celebrate local diversity and unique aspects of Trenton history.

Environmental Education

Rehabilitate the large barn as an environmental center with an accessible entrance from Cadwalader Drive. Develop exhibits and activities focusing on the restoration of the stream and lake.


Develop concessions that will serve a variety of foods in the park, including ethnic foods and local favorites. Locate permanent kiosks at activity centers in the park and provide for temporary concessions during events.

Built Elements

Structures and buildings that contribute to the historic integrity of the park should be rehabilitated according to the US Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Landscapes. New elements should respect the historical design traditions by utilizing materials and styles characteristic of the park’s history.

Landscape Management

Develop a replanting strategy for the entire park, using trees that are appropriate from both historic and ecological perspectives. Develop a management plan for the park trees, turf areas and woodlands to ensure that no areas of the park are neglected and that the overall level of care is raised significantly.

Access and Circulation

Simplify the circulation by replacing the two interior roads with a single, one-way drive that offers handicapped access to the Ellarslie Museum, as well as access to a proposed concert area. Maintain restrictions on daily vehicle use to the internal park drive and the lower section of the circuit drive. Develop a new parking area for about 35 cars in the lower recreation area.


Develop a one-way, continuous, multipurpose loop path along the circuit drive for walkers, bicyclists and skaters. Develop a rational hierarchy of new paths, with widths and surfaces appropriate to the various uses.

Utilities and Stormwater Management

Conduct a full assessment of the stormwater lines and structures in the park. Make needed repairs to the stormwater system and add a new water line loop in the picnic grove.


Begin a program of vista management by identifying important vistas in the park, the historic design intent, and trees for management. Open vistas through selective tree pruning and removal of inappropriate and unhealthy trees. 

Recreational Activities and Facilities

Replace the current playground with high-quality children’s play equipment. Relocate and develop an adult fitness area near the current basketball courts. Encourage boating on the canal by developing a canoe launch near the bridge and consider having a private canoe concession.


Install light fixtures appropriate to the historic character of the park and concentrate lighting in areas that are easily visible from roads, for efficiency of security patrol. Gradually upgrade and standardize the park benches, tables, and drinking fountains.

Animal Management

Reconfigure the deer paddock to meet safety and health requirements for the animals and provide clean, automated sources for drinking water and food. Create a permanent animal caretaker position to monitor the herd and improve the well being of the animals.

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Modernize the kitchen and open a café/restaurant on a new outdoor dining terrace under a trellis, overlooking the picnic area and canal. Reconfigure circulation for one-way access and provide handicapped and additional parking spaces near the building entrance.

Performance Area and Vistas

Develop an informal performance area near the old bandshell using grass terraces and low-level lighting. Selectively remove trees in the west meadow area to increase views of the stage and restore historic vistas within the park.

Canal and Picnic Area

Construct a new canal bridge at the end of Lovers’ Lane to make a direct connection between the upper and lower parks. Site new picnic pavilions and a new children’s playground in the area above the bridge and establish connections for accessibility and bicycling from the canal towpath.

Deer Area and Stream Restoration

Redesign and landscape the double fence so that the stream and lake can become part of the park experience. Redesign the pond and stream system to a more natural configuration and a healthy functioning wetland ecosystem.

Parkside Avenue Entrance

Restore the Parkside Avenue entrance gate and bridge using available historical documentation.

Maintenance Area

Redesign the maintenance area to screen parking and organize circulation in the area. Demolish the existing greenhouse structure and recreate a horticultural holding area with cold frames. Allow for a separate trash holding area, including a trash compactor.